Redistricting reform advocates stopped an attempt to place severe limits on the ability of Floridians to use the state’s Fair Districts Amendments to hold legislators accountable for gerrymandering. The Fair Districts Amendments, which passed in 2010, amended the Florida Constitution to state the following:
“No apportionment plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent; and districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice; and districts shall consist of contiguous territory.”
HB 953 would have required citizens to file a challenge to any map within 60 days, which would make it very difficult to obtain evidence needed to build a case. Thomas Zehnder, the plaintiffs’ attorney called the bill “a blatant effort to write the Fair Districts Amendments out of the Constitution and permit the sort of gerrymandering that Florida’s citizens have overwhelmingly forbidden.” The bill was a response to successful lawsuits supported by Fair Districts Now in which Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida were plaintiffs. After emails between legislative staff and political operatives demonstrated a concerted effort to get around the amendments, Florida courts struck down the state’s congressional map and legislators stipulated to a violation in the drawing of state senate maps. Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court approved the use of maps the plaintiffs drew.
Common Cause Florida was the only organization to speak out against the bill in the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee and opposed it at every step in the process. The legislature ultimately replaced the bill with a state senate provision designed to clarify how candidates can get on the ballot when a plan is being challenged.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections